This evening’s Socorro City Council Meeting heard several community members speak against Mayor Elia Garcia’s school choice proclamation. A few of the many reasons against ranged from unfair funding creating additional tax burdens on the citizens of Socorro to lack of due process rights for students and families and lack of services to students with special needs.
No one spoke in support of school choice, further solidifying the clear need and support of the Texas State Board of Education’s policy passed last week - public hearings and public comment allowing community members a voice in how their taxpayer dollars are used.
My public comment:
Mayor Garcia, City Council of Socorro,
28 Jan 2019 ~ The Texas State Board of Education passed a policy to hold public hearings and gather public comments on charter expansions.
Commissioner of Education, Michael Morath, is the sole authorizer of new charter campuses, while the TXSBOE has veto power. Note: The members of the TXSBOE are elected, the commissioner of education is appointed. Commissioner Morath has approved 400 new charter campuses in the last six years. The Texas Association of School Administrators sent this letter to Commissioner Morath stating concerns, such as the rapid growth of charters, lack of public input, and no local community accountability.
Before the TXSBOE policy, the only notice the public received was after the expansion campus had been approved. Charters and charter expansions were only required to share an impact analysis, which they create, with the Board of Trustees of the Independent School District in which the charter will exist.
The use of taxpayer dollars allocated for public education is subject to public input, i.e., Democracy. Unlike our ISD's, many charters and their out of town, appointed boards do not hold monthly public meetings. Our new policy takes a considerable step closer to creating a level playing field, giving the local community an opportunity to weigh in on whether a new charter campus is in their best interest.
The policy passed unanimously.
Land Commissioner, George Prescott Bush, made the unprecedented decision to withhold cash from the Permanent School Fund earlier this year. ISDs will receive *possibly* enough funding to cover the Language Arts & Reading Instructional Materials purchase in 2019 & 2020 - however - there will NOT be funding for student technology.
Sunset Hearing: Click to view
Note Senator Watson’s exchange (at minute 4:35) with Commissioner Bush - $55 million has been left on the table (for this biennium). According to statements made in the Sunset Hearing, the SLB has increased their gains by 100% in 2 years, $2B to $4B. However, these gains have not benefited the students of Texas. 39% of these gains are held in CASH at the Reserve for Capital Calls which Commissioner Bush states 100% of the cash in reserve dollars are needed.
Quorum Report: Please see the 2017 annual report pages for the PSF showing both the SBOE and SLB asset classes and earnings on all assets. The QR article reported SLB-PSF earnings that did not include the cash retained by the SLB (39% of SLB-PSF total value, $3.4 billion on pg 4).
I have sent letters to several House Representatives and Senators in the Texas Legislature, requesting their intervention to transfer the $655M from the SLB to the PSF so we may pass-it-through to our ISDs as they prepare to purchase Instructional Materials and Technology for Reading and Language Arts (English and Spanish) for the 2019-2020 academic year - the largest purchase in more than a decade.
It should be noted that the books in classrooms now are old, possibly/probably damaged due to normal wear and tear, and do not reflect the Language Arts TEKS adopted in 2017.
Update, 20 Nov 2018: In a meeting on Monday, 19 Nov, the Land Commissioner maintains the $600M in Reserves, which has been the issue all along, but will send $55M to the Permanent School Fund (the Texas State Board of Education). This will add approximately $1 (one dollar), to each student's fund which ISD's will pool to purchase the new Language Arts & Reading instructional materials and technology. The funds will NOT be enough to cover the 2019 purchase, as stated previously.
$600M remain in the Land Commissioner's cash reserves. I never received a response to my letters nor a response from his office as to why this unprecedented action was taken.
Take a look at the Commissioner's YouTube video,
where he discusses turning Texas oil into textbooks for all students
Georgina C. Pérez